To examine the ultrastructural distribution of laminin within kidney basement membranes, we prepared rat anti-mouse laminin mAbs to use in immunolocalization experiments. Epitope domains for these mAbs were established by immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, affinity chromatography, and rotary shadow EM. One mAb bound to the laminin A and B chains on blots and was located to a site approximately 15 nm from the long arm-terminal globular domain as shown by rotary shadowing. Conjugates of this long arm-specific mAb were coupled to horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and intravenously injected into mice. Kidney cortices were fixed for microscopy 3 h after injection. HRP reaction product was localized irregularly within the renal glomerular basement membrane (GBM) and throughout mesangial matrices. In addition, this mAb bound in linear patterns specifically to the laminae rarae of basement membranes of Bowman's capsule and proximal tubule. This indicates the presence of the long arm immediately beneath epithelial cells in these sites. The laminae densae of these basement membranes were negative by this protocol. In contrast, the lamina rara and densa of distal tubular basement membranes (TBM) were both heavily labeled with this mAb. A different ultrastructural binding pattern was seen with eight other mAbs, including two that mapped to different sites on the short arms by rotary shadowing and five that blotted to a large pepsin-resistant laminin fragment (P1). These latter mAbs bound weakly or not at all to GBM but all bound throughout mesangial matrices. In contrast, discrete spots of HRP reaction product were seen across all layers of Bowman's capsule BM and proximal TBM. These same mAbs, however, bound densely across the full width of distal TBM. Our findings therefore show that separate strata of different basement membranes are variably immunoreactive to these laminin mAbs. The molecular orientation or integration of laminin into the three dimensional BM meshwork therefore varies with location. Alternatively, there may be a family of distinct laminin-like molecules distributed within basement membranes.

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